Millions more Britons were put into lockdown yesterday, sparking a fresh crisis for struggling businesses.
Half the population of England – nearly 30million people – will be under stricter rules from midnight.
They are being banned from socialising indoors with anyone from another household, whether at home or in bars, restaurants and cafes.
The draconian measures came as figures showed GPs carried out 26.7million fewer appointments from March to August than over the same period in 2019.
The huge decline raised fears that lives are being put at risk.
London, Essex, York and parts of Surrey, Cumbria and Derbyshire are being moved into the ‘high risk’ Tier Two of Covid-19 curbs at midnight.
Matt Hancock faces fury from the hospitality sector, as it warns local lockdowns will decimate English pubs. Mr Hancock warned ‘things will get worse before they get better
As Oxford Street shoppers wore face coverings on Thursday, the Government announced London was moving up to Tier Two of its lockdown scheme, but MPs in the capital have criticised the move
Furious hospitality chiefs warned Matt Hancock’s decision would decimate pubs and MPs said it was ‘neither targeted nor proportionate’.
As daily lab-confirmed cases fell 744 to 18,980 and another 138 Covid-19 deaths were reported:
- Boris Johnson’s tiered ‘traffic light’ scheme was in crisis after northern Tories joined forces with Labour mayors to reject plans to put much of the region under the most stringent lockdown;
- A senior official said Britain should have a series of ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns during school holidays;
- Italy was added to the list of countries subject to 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving in Britain;
- At least a third of care home residents in England have not been given a coronavirus test over the past month;
- A US study suggested only one in 2,000 under-70s who contract Covid are killed by the disease;
- Experts criticised plans for students to self-isolate for 14 days before Christmas;
- Scotland Yard said the MP who travelled long-distance by train after testing positive will face no further action.
Health Secretary Mr Hancock was last night accused of subjecting the capital to new lockdown measures to defuse claims that only the North was being targeted.
London MPs said the clampdown was not justified by the case rate in the city. Former Tory minister Sir Bob Neill, whose Bromley and Chislehurst seat in south London has one of the lowest coronavirus rates in the capital, branded Mr Hancock’s decision ‘a mistake’.
He said it was ‘neither targeted, nor proportionate, nor appropriate to use a London-wide average in so large a metropolitan area where so little commuting is now taking place’.
With additional lockdown meaures coming into effect across parts of England, the hospitality industry has voiced fears that some pubs may never reopen
Tory MP Nickie Aiken, who represents the Cities of London and Westminster, said businesses in the West End were ‘already on their knees’ and could ‘disappear for good’.
Emma McClarkin of the British Beer and Pub Association said: ‘All pubs are already particularly struggling due to the current restrictions of the 10pm curfew, rule of six and low consumer confidence exacerbated by low footfall caused by a lack of tourists and commuters.
‘These further restrictions will leave most pubs fighting for their very survival.’
Mr Hancock insisted London was ‘absolutely not’ being hammered deliberately, saying infection rates were on a ‘steep upward path’ across the capital and it was not practical to place restrictions only on the worst-hit boroughs.
In a gloomy prognosis, he also warned MPs: ‘Things will get worse before they get better, but I know there are calmer seas and brighter skies ahead.’
He said the Government had taken a ‘firm and balanced’ approach that was ‘the only way to protect lives and livelihoods’.
But Harrow East Tory MP Bob Blackman demanded an exit strategy for areas in lockdown.
Labour frontbencher Wes Streeting said: ‘There are lots of restaurants, pubs, bars and other venues whose doors will be open but customers will just not be walking through the door.’
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: ‘Being moved into Tier Two is a curse for businesses.
With coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalisations rising, experts believe a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown could come into effect over the school holidays
‘They will be trapped in a no man’s land of being open, but with severe restrictions that will significantly hit custom, all while unable to access the job support available in Tier Three.’
The restrictions were welcomed by London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, who said they were based on ‘expert public health and scientific advice about what is necessary to save lives in the capital’.
Liverpool city region, comprising 1.6 million residents, remains the only area currently in Tier Three, which has the highest level of restrictions.
A major report by the Care Quality Commission today warns of a ‘huge pent-up demand for care’ since the March lockdown.
Inspectors fear that ‘lost’ appointments with doctors have led to a significant deterioration in patients’ health, the missed diagnoses of cancers and the worsening of conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
Preliminary statistics produced by NHS Digital estimate there were 26.7million fewer GP appointments in England between March and August this year than in the same period in 2019 – down from 146.2million to 119.5million.
CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said: ‘If looked at across the whole of the year, the number of lost GP appointments translates into millions of people potentially not seeing their GP, not getting conditions diagnosed early enough, not getting those referrals on for diagnoses like cancer, and other conditions.’
The CQC praised the way GPs adopted innovation and technology but warned that such approaches were inappropriate for many patients.
Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said: ‘There is now a huge and growing backlog of people who need NHS care, which has built up because of the pandemic.’
But Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, stressed that 400,000 patients were being seen face to face every day.
The professor added: ‘GPs and their teams worked incredibly hard from the start of the pandemic, changing the way they deliver services in order to keep patients as safe as possible, stop the spread of the virus, and allow staff to continue working, delivering patient care.’